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Time Boxing Strategies to Help You Get Things Done in Your Project

~ By Lisa Drake

Clock in a cardboard box

Have you ever heard of time boxing? Time Boxing is setting aside a fixed time period to work on a particular task or group of tasks. Basically, instead of working on a task until it's done, you commit to work on it for a specific amount of time.

What you need: The only gadget you will need is a timer (phone timer, computer timer or kitchen timer).

Basic Steps to Time Boxing

  1. Decide on a task or group of tasks
  2. Get a timer and set it to the time you assign to the task
  3. Begin the timer and focus on completing the task and try to avoid any distractions as much as possible
  4. Once the timer goes off, you are to stop working. You should trust the device to tell you that the time's up, instead of interrupting yourself by checking the time occasionally
  5. Reward yourself with a treat, pleasurable activity or well-deserved rest. (Your reward can also be time boxed)
  6. Repeat as often as you wish

Time Boxing Can Help You

  1. Overcome Procrastination: To help overcome your resistance towards procrastinating on a task, put those tasks in a time box.
  2. Keep Perfectionism in Check: Set SMART goals to accomplish before your time is up, which makes you prioritise the essentials, avoid stressing on the details, and settle for good enough approach to avoid the effects of diminishing returns.
  3. Increase Efficiency: It seems that our most efficient work is normally done at the end of a time period when there is a well-defined cut-off point. By using time boxes, this gives you just enough healthy time pressure, which allows you to take full advantage of the end effect.
  4. Complete Mosquito Tasks First: Time boxes is a great tool to help tackle those tiny tasks that keep bugging you. The little tasks may seem insignificant, however, when added together they drain a significant amount of your mental energy. A good strategy is to claim back that energy and create a time box and tackle all of them in one sitting.
  5. Focused Efforts: Time boxing is a great tool that can help you exclude other tasks and unrelated thoughts from your radar during that particular time window. It is important to organise your work in time boxes so you have the structure needed to properly prepare for your tasks.
  6. Enhance Motivation: When you have several big tasks, no matter how important, it can be de-motivating, as you simply need to work for too long to see an outcome. Simple things, such as crossing off items from your to-do list can be motivating, similar to completing a time box.
  7. Balance in Your Life: We often become too focused in a specific area of our lives at the expense of others. It's important to know you don't need to use time boxing for work-related tasks only. You can block time for anything that matters to you, such as leisure, family, hobbies, etc. This is an excellent strategy to help you live a balanced live.
  8. Help Plug Time Sinks: Each of us tend to spend a lot of time on computers and searching the internet to catch up with friends, read about the news, play games, watch shows, etc. If you place this time in a time box, you can reclaim the time back to make sure you can still enjoy some downtime, but not allow it to overcome your entire day.
  9. Reward Yourself: It's important to tie your rewards to the completion of tasks, as you may find yourself doing quick and easy tasks and avoid the important ones. Try gearing your little rewards after you complete a time box instead. For example, getting up to get a glass of water, talking to a co-worker, or taking a short walk.

Lisa Drake is a 3rd generation Nevadan that enjoys project managing and technology, at International Game Technology. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Information Systems in 2009 and is currently working on her Master's in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Information Technology. Outside of work and school, she is an active member in several Masonic Organisations, Order of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Nile, and Job's Daughters where have gotten the opportunity to leader two of the organisations, plan and organise events, and build lasting relationships. Lisa blogs about her experiences in project management on Lisa Drake's Blog


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